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Archives: September 2009

I Like You, And That’s Why I Follow You. So, Why Can’t I Search Just Your Tweets?

The advanced part of Twitter search contains a lot of cool functionality, but it’s missing one critical checkbox.

I want to be able to search the tweets of my network. And just my network.

I’m following these folks for a reason. It would be nice to be able to tap into specifically what they think about my question or problem. Being able to see what Twitter’s 15-20 million users think about x is fantastic, but it’s not always what I need or want.

One checkbox. You can leave everything else the same. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Have Friends That Are New To Twitter? Five Tips To Help Them Hit The Ground Running

Remember the first day you signed up to Twitter? It was new and a little strange, and may have become overwhelming. Conversely, when you don’t know what you should be doing, all that hype can actually have the opposite effect – Twitter felt like a bit of a disappointment. What’s the point?

Because you persisted, eventually the penny dropped, and Twitter suddenly seemed a place of enormous opportunity. You started to recommend the service to your friends, and then watched the process repeat itself through their eyes.

  • “I don’t get it.”
  • “I have nothing to say.”
  • “Who are these people following me?”

Back in April, I wrote an article entitled, “10 Quick & Easy Ways To Maximise Your Twitter Experience“. The content is still surprisingly relevant but a lot has changed in the last 4-5 months and I felt it needed a bit of an update.

Here are five tips that I think all newcomers to Twitter should read and implement to help them get off to a good start.

1. Use Your Photo For Your Avatar

Twitter recently updated their default avatar, and while the new image is an improvement it still tells veterans of the service one of two things: you’re either a newbie, or (worse) a spammer.

Your choice of avatar is one of the most important decisions you will make. It’s the first thing most people see when deciding whether to follow you – hence, it should represent what your Twitter account represents. It should tell us a little bit about who you are.

Ideally, your avatar should be a recent photo of YOU. At a pinch, it can be your brand’s logo but if you’re the only person who will be using the account a photo is still better. It’s more personable and people will warm to you and become familiar with it.

A common mistake that many make is to follow similar practices used on bulletin boards and MSN and use a cartoon, a picture of a celebrity, or a character from a movie or TV show for their profile picture. Twitter isn’t a bulletin board, and it isn’t MSN. People like, and expect to see, your face. It makes you seem real.

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Twitter Changes The Default Avatar, Adds New Background Themes

Twitter have updated their official blog today with news of four new background themes, as well as a replacement for the default avatar all new users get when they first sign up to the service.

So, it’s out with this:

Twitter Changes The Default Avatar, Adds New Background Themes

And in with this:

Twitter Changes The Default Avatar, Adds New Background Themes

What do you think?

Here’s A Radical Suggestion: If You DM Me, I Should Be Able To DM You

(I’m pretty sure this isn’t my idea. I’m confident somebody else suggested it to me, possibly within the comments on this very blog, but I can’t locate the source. If it was you, let me know and I’ll gladly give credit.)

I’ve written previously about the inequity of the direct message system on Twitter.

If I’m following you, the system gives you permission to direct message me. However, unless you’re also following me back, I cannot direct message you.
That’s right – I can’t even reply. I’m not afforded the same level of privacy as you. So, I have to reply openly, exposing your secrets, which makes the private messaging system a bit of a farce.

Here’s an idea: keep things as they are, but if I receive a direct message from somebody who I follow but who is not following me, I can reply to that direct message.

And only that direct message. Just the one.

You DM me, I can DM you back. You DM me again, I can DM you back again. And so on.

You get one shot – once you’ve clicked send on that direct message reply, the system ticks a box and you’re done.

(Of course, if we’re both following each other there would be no limits on when and how often we can send a private message. This is for folks who haven’t been followed back.)

I like this for three reasons:

  1. It removes the one-way advantage the Twitter elite have over everybody else
  2. There would be no need to respond publically to a private message
  3. It can’t be abused

This would also get around the ‘I wanted to send you a direct message, but you’re not following me‘ dilemma. When this happens, you could open a private conversation by initiating the discourse from your end. This provides further security.

I can’t see any major negatives. Can you?

POLL: How Many Celebrities Do You Follow On Twitter (And Who Are They)?

This poll is simply for curiosity’s sake, and I want to share with you this hypothesis: the more time people spend on Twitter, the less celebrities they end up following.

It’s certainly true for me. Back in the day (maybe a heady six months ago) when I was young and naïve, I was probably following fifty celebrities on Twitter. Now I’m following precisely twelve: Robert Llewellyn, Dara O’Briain, David Mitchell, Derren Brown, Hugh Hefner, Graham Linehan, Gregg Wallace, Jimmy Carr, Jon Ronson, Peter Serafinowicz, Jonathan Ross and the obligatory Stephen Fry.

(Out of interest, three of the above follow me, too. I’ll leave you to guess who that might be.)

Why? Various reasons, but most of them revolve around the fact that Twitter is a fantastic leveller. It takes more than simply being famous. That might ensure you a lot of early interest, but to keep our attention you actually have to be interesting.

I’d like you to share how many celebrities you follow in the poll below, and also to write up a little bit about it in the comments.

Which famous folk are you following, and why? Who have you unfollowed? Are you following less celebrities now than you were a few months ago?

You may know the name of every celebrity you follow by heart, but if not, here’s how you do it:

  1. Go to
  2. Type in your username, and wait a few moments.
  3. The first page you see will show you everybody who you are following that isn’t following you back. Check for any celebrities.
  4. Click on the ‘Fans’ and ‘Friends’ tabs, and check for signs of any celebrities in here.
  5. Tip: if you re-sort the pages by number of followers, that usually makes the celebrity accounts easier to spot, as they’re typically nearer the top.

(You can do this with anybody else you like, too. It’s quite fascinating to check out who famous folk are following, particularly when they’re not being followed back by that person.)

If that seems like too much work, feel free to simply make a guess. Try and be as accurate as you possibly can.

I’m talking proper, old-fashioned celebrities here. People who were famous before they came on to the internet. So, for example, Robert Scoble, famous as he is on Twitter and in the world of technology, doesn’t qualify. Conversely, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen Degeneres, Russell Brand, Pearl Jam, Ryan Seacrest, Britney Spears, Shaq, Oprah and Coldplay do.

That said, the concept of celebrity remains a fairly difficult one to pin down. Lots of folk are simply famous for being famous, and many household numbers in one country are complete unknowns in another. So, here’s the thing: if they’re famous to you, then they’re famous.

And please check with FriendorFollow before voting! The numbers of people who are putting the wrong number is unreal. Yes, comedians are celebrities. Yes, famous authors are celebrities. Yes, atheletes are celebrities. And yes, anybody who is famous in the ‘real world’ is a celebrity! It’s not just the Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers of this world.

(Also, if you follow just one celebrity, please, please, please write about who this is in the comments below.)

Who you follow can reveal quite a lot about you, I think.

And please remember not to lie. After all, we can easily check you out on FriendOrFollow, ourselves. :)

Twitter: "All Your Tweet(s) Are Belong To Us."

Twitter has announced some revisions to their terms of service (TOS). They’re largely unremarkable apart from this section about tweet ownership:

Twitter is allowed to “use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute” your tweets because that’s what we do. However, they are your tweets and they belong to you.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword. Back in June I wrote about the mystery of tweet ownership and copyright and this update to the TOS from Twitter further clouds this issue. Two concerns remain:

  1. If Twitter can do what they want with ‘our’ tweets, including reproduction for their own (financial) gain, what do we actually ‘own’?
  2. If Twitter loses our data, closes our accounts or goes out of business, do we still own those tweets? Or are they retrievable in any way?

At this stage the responsibility for backing up our data rests entirely with us – although there is no way to restore this data on to Twitter should something bad happen – but the issue of who exactly owns what remains puzzling.

Twitter: "All Your Tweet(s) Are Belong To Us."

Consider this: on Twitter, when your account is suspended, or if you decide to delete your account, all your tweets are removed, too. (For example, there is no way to read @cwalken’s tweets on If we, the users, collectively decided to delete all of our accounts together, at once, there would be no Twitter. There would be no tweets. There would be nothing. (Spambots aside.)

These are some of the reasons why I feel the issue of tweet ownership needs further investigation, and some debate. Transparency is absolutely key, and even with this revision everything still seems just a little too blurry for my liking.

HOWTO: Follow Everybody Who Works At Twitter… With One Click

TweepML allows you to build lists of Twitter users that you can recommend to friends and followers. Better, if they like what they see, they can follow everybody – or as many as they like from the list – with a single click.

HOWTO: Follow Everybody Who Works At Twitter... With One Click

I’ve created a list from my article about the people who work at Twitter, and you can follow these folks quickly and easily by visiting this page.

Why not take a moment to create your own lists, and recommend them to your friends. It’s got to be better than #followfriday, right?

Twitter Growth Just +1.27% For August; Facebook Down -0.37%; Friendfeed +13.75%

Last month we reported that the flat (or negative) June-to-July numbers seen across almost all social network sites was perhaps indicative of a lull within the industry as a whole, and for aficionados the August data makes for grim reading.

Twitter gained just 1.27% month-on-month between July and August 2009, registering 23,579,044 unique visits (reports

Twitter Growth Just +1.27% For August; Facebook Down -0.37%

(click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, Facebook dipped 0.27% to a still heady 122,220,617 uniques. When was the last time Facebook lost ground month to month? Has it ever?

On the other side of the table, new Facebook purchase Friendfeed gained a massive 13.75%, moving above the one million unique mark for just the third time in its history, likely because of all the new attention. It will be interesting to see if Friendfeed can continue this upward momentum from here, and even if it does whether that in any way guarantees the future of the highly-regarded aggregator.

LinkedIn also continued its recent advance, adding 8.19% uniques (14,241,651).

MySpace fell 6.73% (55,599,585 uniques), and looks to be on the verge of a major decline.

Convert Your Mailing List To Twitter Followers (And Save A Fortune)

(I’m sure you’re doing this already, but here’s an idea that should really pay off.)

If you manage any kind of email database and routinely send out newsletters and mailshots to your customers, make sure you mention your Twitter account each and every time.

And here’s the key part: in a way that cannot fail to be noticed (and understood), politely ask your customers to follow you on Twitter.

Don’t hide it away in the footer. Don’t underplay it. And don’t be all coy and bashful. Make sure it cannot possibly be missed. If you send out your newsletter in HTML format, spend the time to create an attractive image button (that says, literally, ‘please follow us on Twitter for real-time updates’, or similar).

The benefits are huge. If you convert the thousands of people in your email database to Twitter followers, you can cut your mailshot costs to zero. And using a statistic-tracking URL shortener (like, or through Hootsuite) you can link to anywhere you like and work the analytics.

Better, because everybody who follows you on Twitter has opted in, you essentially have their permission to tell them about your products. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart about it. Adopt an intelligent ratio of marketing tweets to everything else. I would recommend no more than ten per cent of your tweets are (in any way) related to pitching your merchandise. Aim for five per cent if you can. (What should you talk about in the other 90-95 per cent? I’ll be writing about this later in the week.)

Sending out mailshots to tens of thousands of customers is time-consuming and expensive. Writing a tweet to those same people is simple and costs nothing. You get real-time feedback and conversions. You can easily follow-up with a personalised response. And you get the privilege of doing this again, and again, and again. For free.

And the best part? The more optimised your Twitter network, the better the results are for you.

Thinking About Your Twitter Social Cycle

Twitter is constantly changing. Most of these transitions are relatively minor, but over a period of weeks and months the way the service is perceived (and used) can be vastly different. (Consider the few uses the world saw for Twitter just six months ago, compared to today.)

Each of us undertakes our own Twitter journey, too, and likely many of them. Here’s how I believe Twitter lays out for a lot of people (certainly professionals and thought leaders).

Thinking About Your Twitter Social Cycle

  1. Your cycle begins, and you’re actively looking to follow new people. This will be those that interest you and have caught your eye for various reasons, as well as friends, recommendations from friends, celebrities, members of the suggested user list, news feeds, and so on.
  2. At this stage, because you’re following less people you pay more attention to the whole, the engagement level is high, and many of these early followers can become ‘followers for life’, simply because you’ve had more time to invest in the relationship (and it’s paid off).
  3. As your network grows in size (and hopefully stature), you’re more likely to follow somebody back if they make the effort to engage and communicate with you before you follow them (or come with a very strong recommendation). Moreover, you’ll realise that a lot of the people you are following aren’t relevant or of interest, so you’ll begin to actively prune your network to cut down on unnecessary noise.
  4. As a consequence of this, the quality of your engagement with the core (new and remaining) members of your network will increase.
  5. This will identify your purpose on Twitter. You’ll see the opportunity, and the cycle will repeat, albeit with a tighter (renewed) focus.

What’s important to remember is that your cycle doesn’t just begin with the first time you open an account and finish when you quit (or die). Instead, it will reboot and start over any time you make a major change to the way you use (or perceive) Twitter.

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